The Golden State Warriors Are in Full Control of the NBA Playoffs
If you're an NBA fan and have spent any time surfing the Twitter-verse today, you've probably come across this little nugget.
Warriors: led for 94:08 of this series so far
Jazz have led for 0:00
Tied for 1:52
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 5, 2017
Usually, I'd classify that as unbelievable, but it's this year's Golden State Warriors we're talking about.
Ya know, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and company. The team that won a league-best 67 games this season. The team that scored nearly 116 points per game. The team that ranked first and second, respectively, in offensive and defensive efficiency.
No, this Warriors team is that good. They've been out of this world in the playoffs and have been in command for darn near its entirety.
Don't believe me? Check it out!
In the Warriors' four-game sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers, they won by an average of 15.5 points per game and capped it off with a 25-point victory in Portland in Game 4.
But did you know that the Blazers led at the start of just 3 of 12 quarters? And did you know that only twice did the Warriors have a win probability below 50% (57.02% for that matter)?
Well, according to score differential and our very own in-game win probabilities (courtesy of our numberFire Live), it's true.
|Games 1 & 2||Score Diff.||Win Prob.||Games 3 & 4||Score Diff.||Win Prob.|
|Gm 1 - Final||12||100.00%||Gm 3 - Final||6||100.00%|
|Gm 2 - Final||19||100.00%||G4 - Final||25||100.00%|
You can see that Portland led at the start of quarters two through four in Game 3. However, it's also evident that, even at the start of the fourth, the Warriors had the Blazers where they wanted them -- their share of the win probability says as much.
Other than that little blip, Golden State had a win probability of at least 67% to start each game, and the Dubs started each and every quarter of Games 1, 2 and 4 with a win probability north of 80%.
Accordingly, the Warriors' likelihood of winning the series -- and doing so in four games -- increased gradually until the prophecy was fulfilled.
|Point in Time||Series Win Prob.||Win Prob. in 4 Gms||Win Prob. in 5 Gms|
|Game 1 - Start||87.17%||21.54%||31.10%|
|Game 2 - Start||91.45%||28.27%||34.16%|
|Game 3 - Start||95.77%||37.88%||35.51%|
|Game 4 - Start||99.15%||62.13%||28.32%|
|End of Series||100.00%||100.00%||0.00%|
At series end, the Warriors went home for a week and rested up in preparation for their second-round matchup with the Utah Jazz.
Through two Round 2 games, the Warriors have and 2-0 lead with a pair of wins by a combined 23 points. In both instances, they led by at least 20 points at one point or another.
The Jazz have fought their way back into games and, yes, they've won three quarters, but the Warriors have never trailed for a single second.
|Games 1 & 2||Score Diff.||Win Prob.|
|Gm 1 - Final||12||100.00%|
|Gm 2 - Final||11||100.00%|
Forget the score differential. The win probability might be even more telling, because not once have the Warriors entered a game or quarter with a win probability lower than 88.62% (their win probability to start Game 1).
To begin the series, our model gave the Warriors 77.75% odds to win the series. Now two games in, the Warriors -- as they did in Round 1 -- have increased that figure each game.
|Time||Series Win Prob.||Win Prob. in 4 Gms||Win Prob. in 5 Gms|
|Game 1 - Start||77.75%||14.57%||25.79%|
|Game 2 - Start||85.30%||21.15%||29.83%|
Golden State isn't as likely to end this one before it gets back to Oracle, but their probability to sweep has more than doubled since the series started. Either way, no matter how many games it takes, at 92.2%, the Dubs are a virtual lock for the Western Conference Finals.
Rounds 1 & 2
In totality, the Warriors have been and are still in full control of the playoffs. Through Rounds 1 and 2, they've been a far superior team to both of their opponents.
In terms of score differential and in-game win probability for the start of each quarter and end of every game, here's how their dominance has looked across all 24 quarters to this point. (Click to enlarge)
While we can gather that score differential has been rather erratic, it hasn't dictated win probability all that much. Save for those three quarters in Game 3 versus Portland, the Warriors -- whether up by a few or a lot -- have been in the driver's seat because they're the best team in basketball.
And, as I alluded to, you can see that their current series is taking on a familiar shape to that of their Round 1 sweep.
So far this postseason, there doesn't appear to be anything stopping the Warriors. Their biggest competition is probably themselves at this point.
According to our numbers, that's basically the gist. At 51.5%, the Warriors are more likely to win the championship than the other seven playoff teams combined.
They're the odds-on favorite for a reason -- and until an opponent can incite an ounce of worry in them, they'll continue to steamroll their way to the title.